Dance

Shake and shimmy to tell a story

Dancer Debapriya Das is of the firm opinion that art transcends geography, culture and language. She innovatively combines Bharatnatya and belly dance.

Her The Ras Project on April 1 uses belly dance to tell the stories of seven women from the Ramayana. “As I have been trained in Bharatanatya (Natya Shastra) during my formative years and my knowledge of our epics is deep and evolved, I can work my narratives into different dance forms,” says the dancer who has been professionally trained in many forms of Egyptian Dances that includes different versions of belly dance.

She teams dances from various regions of Egypt with songs in Egyptian and Arabic. “We choose songs to correspond with the emotions of the characters — be it Sita, Mandodari or Surpanaka. So even though the songs are composed by Egyptian percussionists and used for belly dance, they match the Indian stories being told,” says Debapriya. “The idea in such experiments is to see that they rise above geographical boundaries.”

Shake and shimmy to tell a story
 

Debapriya chose characters in Ramayana that are rich in Rasa and Bhava (essence and emotion). For instance Sita’s character reveals love, pain, anger, independence and resolve.

“We have characterised her when she sees Lord Rama and subtly expresses her love through her eyes. As the character evolves, she finally shows up her steely nerve during her trial by fire. Such strong characterisation needed the best of music. ‘Elhophalal’ composed by Egyptian Percussionist Hossam Ramzy matches Sita’s love. We will have English narratives for each item.”

Debapriya believes that one can use any dance form to tell a story. Just because it is an Indian epic, it need not be an Indian dance form, the art lies in getting the story across.

Shake and shimmy to tell a story
 

The dancer has a Masters in Economics, and works as an Economist at the Centre for Science Technology and Policy. She was trained in Bharatanatya from the age of eight at the Nalanda Dance Research Centre in Mumbai.

Her interest in different dance forms led her into joining classes in belly dancing, contemporary, jazz and ballet. Later she went to Egypt and learnt Egyptian oriental dance forms and tribal fusion dance forms.

“Egyptian oriental dance styles are popularly referred to as belly dance, but belly dance is just one in the many styles that exist. One should remember that there is lot more to belly dance than scantily-clad women.”

Watch The Ras Project at Rangastala on April 1 from 5 to 6 pm and 7.30 to 8.30 pm.

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Printable version | Nov 23, 2020 3:07:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/shake-and-shimmy-to-tell-a-story/article17743931.ece

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